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Black or blue? Confusion grows over traditional British passport colour

Gov.uk’s online passport application form contradicts Home Office assertion that British passports have ‘never been black’

It’s been a debate to rival that surrounding the famous white and gold or black and blue dress. Just what colour were the old British passports?

Since the government announced their post-Brexit return, it has preferred to refer to them as an “iconic” navy blue. But on 30 December, the Home Office went as far as to issue a rebuttal to news stories criticising the colour of the new design.

At the end of December the Home Office issued this mock-up of what the new passport could look like. Photograph: Home Office/PA

“The colour of the new passport will be returning to its previous navy blue,” the statement says. “The image alongside our announcement … is a mock-up produced for illustrative purposes before the final design is completed. The colour will be navy blue and the design embossed in gold.”

The statement goes on to say: “Since its introduction in 1921, there have been a few variants of that navy blue colour but it has never been black, as some commentators have suggested.”

However, all that effort has been undermined by the online application process for obtaining a British passport. The form asks applicants if they have previously held a British passport. Then they are asked to specify whether it was “a dark red passport” or “a black or blue passport”.

The passport application process on gov.uk asks applicants if they have previously held a black British passport. Photograph: Gov.uk

Elsewhere on the gov.uk website, users are advised to “follow the process for getting a first adult passport if the last passport you had was an old black or blue passport”.

The new passport design will replace the present one from 2019. The current burgundy colour is recommended, but not mandated, by EU rules. Croatia, for example, issues EU passports in blue.